Close the school, save a dime or two

A well-regarded public school in a town of 800 people will be closed as a cost-cutting measure, according to the LA Times.  The Eastern Sierra Academy (ESA) doesn’t have sports or extra-curriculars,  and has only 22 students, but evidently the cost is too great for Eastern Sierra Unified School District Supt. Don Clark to allow it to keep going.  The 15 year old school is also a target for locals who consider it “elitist”.

“Many see the academy as serving rich and spoiled people who have always gotten what they want — that’s why they are crying now,” said Laura Pemburton, a district cook with two children in neighboring schools. “They have made it seem as though kids who like sports are lesser beings.”

Of course, parents of students have some cost-cutting plans of their own:

Over at the academy, parents have demanded that the district fire Clark or trim his benefits, including an annual salary of $131,000, a tax-free $80,000 home loan and use of a district sport utility vehicle.

According to Wikipedia, ESA was ranked 19th in the nation in Newsweek’s Challenge index ranking of 27,000 public high schools in 2005.


  1. I would guess that those 3.5 teaching positions for these 22 students costs more than a “dime or two.” I’d also guess that any other high school that could afford this ratio of teachers to students would see its test results soar.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Mark S: Horror of horrors! A public school with motivated, achieving kids! Must close it. Now you know why we middle class parents have deserted public schools in droves.

  3. Well, at least Ms. Pemberton is filled with glee that the parents of these 22 students are crying. After all, these parents who think sports aren’t as important as high academic achievement need to be taught a lesson, right?


    “I’d also guess that any other high school that could afford this ratio of teachers to students would see its test results soar.”

    I would be willing to bet that student/teacher ratio isn’t the only difference between this school and the others that didn’t make the grade.

  4. With motivated kids and homogeneous grouping, class sizes can be significantly larger without compromising academics. Foreign languages are probably the exception. My kids had 36 in their (outstanding) AP sciences – 2 kids per lab station and over 80% had at least 4 on the AP tests.

  5. From the Wiki page: “If students cannot maintain this average, they are asked to transfer to another high school in the district.”

    Well, I suppose it’s easier to be ranked so high when you get rid of your low-achieving students. Not that they’re the only ones to do this, but it is a bit tiresome to see these schools lauded so highly for making the most of their students, when they’re essentially cherry-picking their population. Of course you’re going to be better than that public comprehensive school down the street when you’re sending your worse students to them.

  6. Mark Roulo says:

    The school district web page lists eight schools in the district. The student and teacher count for most of these is available from the individual school web pages. I get the following (format: school teachers:students:

    Lee Vining Elementary School 83:10
    Lee Vining High School ~50:10
    High Desert Academy 13:2
    Edna Beaman Elementary School ~50:6
    Eastern Sierra Academy 22:3
    Bridgeport Elementary School ??:7
    Coleville High School ??:9
    Antelope Elementary School ??:5

    I can’t find student populations for the last three schools (note: greatschools website has numbers, but these are at odds with the school provided numbers … I’m using the school provided numbers on the theory that the schools are in a better position to know how many students they have).

    The LA-Times article claims about 500 students in the district (in ten schools … the district web site claims only eight). If true, then the district has 52 teachers for about 500 students. Or about 10 students/teacher.

    Eastern Sierra Academy is on the low side, but not by a huge amount for this district. My local suburban district runs 20-30 students/teacher in on special-ed classrooms.

    So … the student/teacher ratio for Eastern Sierra Academy looks ridiculously small for those of us in suburban districts, but isn’t too out of line for the district as a whole.

    Given this, I’m a bit puzzled by the district’s decision to kill off its best scoring school.

    -Mark Roulo

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    This web-site:,_California

    puts the district budget at about $27K/student.

    Average in California is about $10K.

    Anyone know if sunshinereview is to be trusted?

    -Mark R.

  8. Mark Roulo says:

    And this site:

    puts the per-student spending at a bit under $12K …

    Hmmm …

    -Mark R.

  9. Concerned 4 our kids says:

    I live in Bridgeport. Home of the ESA and I know several students and alumni of the academy. However, I don’t know a single student who has been farmed out to a neighboring school for not “making the grade”. This along with the academy’s Lottery system of acceptance (with no minimum GPA or other previous academic achievement) suggests that the academy is not an elitist institution. The academy is successful because it expects and demands more from its students, their parents, and its teachers. Any school adopting this philosophy would see test results soar, and would be worthy of our efforts to save it.

  10. Can’t they just make Eastern Sierra Academy a magnet program within the regular high school? It sounded like the district was shifting the teachers to the larger school anyways.


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